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White House Plans New Rules for International Travelers

When the U.S. reopens to international travelers, there will be a new system in place for entry, according to reports. Contact tracing will be a part of the new plan.

However, the administration has not put forth a timeframe for the relaxation of travel restrictions currently in place.


Previous reports noted that the White House was developing vaccine entry requirements for foreign visitors to the U.S., and the White House confirmed that it was considering requiring vaccines for international travelers.

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“The American people need to trust that the new system for international travel is safer even as we – I mean at that point – we’ll be letting in more travelers,” White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients said. “We are exploring considering vaccination requirements for foreign nationals traveling to the United States.”

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo noted at the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board meeting that the current spike of domestic COVID-19 cases is holding back the lifting of international travel restrictions.

“We want to move to a metrics-based system,” Raimondo said. “Before we can do that, we have to get a better handle on the domestic situation, which requires us to get everyone vaccinated.”

In regards to the new plan, Zients said it would replace current restrictions and be “safer, stronger and sustainable.” He stopped short of laying out specific details of the plan but did confirm that contact tracing would play a role, noting that the U.S. would be collecting contact tracing data from passengers traveling into the U.S. to enable the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to contact travelers if exposed to COVID-19.

Checking Digital International Certificate of COVID-19 Vaccination before traveling.
Checking Digital International Certificate of COVID-19 Vaccination before traveling. (photo via Vladimir Vladimirov / E+)

Zients also said that the White House wants the program ready to go when it is safe to lift travel restrictions.

The American Society of Travel Advisors reacted to the report, urging the administration to reopen travel.

“A plan to restart international travel is long overdue,” read the statement. “We urge the Biden Administration to finalize this plan as quickly as possible and to otherwise make safely restarting international travel occur by opening borders an immediate priority.

“The plan should incorporate the common-sense measures we called for along with our travel industry colleagues last week, including expeditiously developing clear vaccination and testing standards, loosening entry restrictions for fully-vaccinated travelers and aligning standards with the governments of our main outbound markets, including Canada, the EU and the U.K. Given its enormous impact on the global economy, an expedited recovery of cross-border travel is critical.

“The travel and tourism industry has been, and continues to be, disproportionately impacted by this pandemic and will be the last sector to recovery. At the same time, financial relief provided to our sector from governments here and abroad has been uneven at best.

“The travel industry as a whole will not recover from COVID until international travel restarts in earnest. We urge the Biden Administration in the strongest possible terms to do its part to make that happen.”

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